Valuable Humans in Transit

Score: 7 / 10

For the past year or so, I’ve felt a vague sense of dread. Beyond the obvious issues in politics, economics, and culture, it just feels like something isn’t right with the world. There’s an uneasiness about everything, and everyone, that I don’t remember existing before.

I suspect there are lots of reasons for this: the precariousness of modern life, uncertainty about the future in the face of climate change, the financialization of every aspect of American existence; I can’t articulate them all.

But one source of dread that I can identify is technology. It’s moving way too fast. So fast that it has started to outpace humans’ ability to adapt. We’re creating things more quickly than ever, but without regard for their moral, ethical, or cultural implications. Such hubris can only end badly.

Evidently, qntm shares my feelings, since most of the short stories in this collection are cautionary tales about the unforeseen consequences and/or moral horror of unchecked technology.

Lena is the standout story. It’s a Wikipedia-like description of a future technology whose users slowly abandon the ethical and moral considerations of its use, with horrifying results. I Don’t Know, Timmy, Being God Is a Big Responsibility and The Difference are close second favorites.

There are a few duds among the rest of the bunch, but all the stories here are extremely readable and nicely thread the line between being campy/overwritten and completely dispassionate. Most have an impressive amount of world-building for their length. A few even play with interesting mediums (chatrooms, Twitter).

Together, they nicely capture the peril of intersecting humanity with technology and provide a healthy dose of skepticism about the promises of our technological future.